The historic Maplewood, Minn., course will go on hiatus starting October 1 for at least 18 months, to take care of a much-needed $12 million renovation. The 83-year-old “working man’s” golf course has seen many famous players, from John Dillinger to Arnold Palmer to Joe Louis. It will receive new grass, bunkers, irrigation and trees when complete.
Keller Golf Course in Maplewood, Minn., will close October 1 for at least 18 months for a $12 million renovation, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported.
Grant Bjornberg has played the course for 17 years and plans to bring his camera on an upcoming round to take pictures from each tee box, the Pioneer Press reported.
“Once you start playing Keller, you want to keep coming back,” Bjornberg said. “When you tee off, on every hole you get a different look. Not every par-4 is a tee-ball with a driver. You’ve got to play smart off the tee. You don’t have to have a super-long golf course for it to be challenging.”
Keller PGA Pro Tom Purcell said no course in Minnesota has a greater history than Keller’s 6,566-yard, par-72 layout, known for hosting PGA Championships in 1932 and 1954, the Western Open in 1949, the PGA Tour’s St. Paul Open from 1930 to 1968, and the LPGA’s Patty Berg Classic from 1973 to 1980. Purcell said he remembers playing Keller for $1 when he was younger, the Pioneer Press reported.
Keller opened in 1929 with an investment of $150,721.38. It became the working man’s golf course, appealing to a blue-collar crowd. From the 1920s to the mid 1930s, some of St. Paul’s most notorious gangsters, including John Dillinger, were weekend regulars. Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino all played Keller, as did former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, the Pioneer Press reported.
But at 83 years old, Keller’s greens are tired and its fairways and clubhouse need work.
“They’re really in bad shape,” said Kevin Finley, Director of Golf Operations for Ramsey County, which owns Keller. “The systems don’t function very well, either. It’s time.”
Ramsey County has been planning to upgrade the course for five years. About $6 million will go into razing and rebuilding the clubhouse and pro shop, with efforts made to transfer some of the look and character of the old clubhouse, which will expand from 8,000 sq. ft. to nearly 12,000 sq. ft. The pro shop will grow from 800 sq. ft. to 1,200 sq. ft., the Pioneer Press reported.
Purcell said Course Superintendent Paul Diegnau should receive credit for the playability of the course and added that weekend players appreciate Keller more in August and September, when the fairways deliver more distance. Purcell said only six holes will change noticeably and the new greens and fairways will make the wait worth it, the Pioneer Press reported.
Bids for the course refurbishment had to be reopened because the lone earlier bid came in more than a million dollars too high, said Board of Directors member Matt Frigaard. Frigaard said he and his fellow members are uneasy that the process is incomplete, though he expects no problems when the new bids are submitted by the end of this week, the Pioneer Press reported.
When work is complete, new grass, bunkers, irrigation and trees replacing those removed will welcome golfers.
“It’s going to be a new golf course,” Finley said, “but it’s going to be the old Keller.”
The course will reopen in 2014, possibly as early as late spring but more likely later, depending on how the grass grows in, the Pioneer Press reported.